Some proposed bills in the state legislature have not been granted a hearing, essentially barricading their advance in the legislative process. This is an unprecedented development, since bills are typically granted a hearing.
AB 327, a bill to ban vaccine passports, was turned down by the committee Chair who simply wouldn’t allow it to have a vote. The fact that any bills are being suppressed, no matter their content, is cause for major concern!
Assemblymember Kevin Kiley reports, “Even when bills are heard, it’s often a farce. Last week I presented a bill to restore business licenses that were revoked for lockdown violations. It was going to pass, until the Speaker intervened and ordered the Chair to kill it. The final vote was 6-7.”
Additionally, the ability to voice support or opposition to a bill has been severely limited this year. The committee chairs at the Capitol continue to encourage citizens not to physically attend hearings but rather just testify by phone. This has resulted in the Capitol building being closed except for select hearings where they allow only a limited number of people into the building to testify. There are even fences around the entire Capitol building and police officers patrolling the perimeter! To make matters even more frustrating, there has frequently only been a total of 10 minutes worth of phone testimony allotted for a bill.
Bills like AB 101, which would require a controversial Ethnic Studies course for high school graduation, still had over 40 citizens on the phone line when the Committee Chair closed the lines. Watch the clip of that hearing here. The hearing for SB 397, which would have granted protections for churches during a declared emergency, also capped phone testimony to only 10 minutes. When they were done hearing the voices in support and turned to the voices in opposition for SB 397, there was a technical difficulty and those still on the phone line were actually in support of the bill, showing that there were many more who wanted to state their support but could not.
The ability of citizens to speak on legislation whether in support or opposition is vitally important in a free society with a representative government. These limitations on the general public’s input on bills has not been seen before.
In 2018, when assembly bill 2756 (the home inspection bill) was being heard in committee, thousands of homeschooling families came down to the Capital from all parts of the state to voice their opposition. Their participation paid off. The bill was killed. (Read about that victory here.) Imagine if we had only ten minutes to oppose AB 2756 (a bill hearing whose testimonies lasted three hours). Thousands of voices would have been silenced!
Instead of hearing and deliberating on many of these bills that have great effects on the general population, the California Legislature has habitually ceded their authority of legislating to the Governorship and his Executive Branch. This last year has made visible the danger of consolidation of powers in a single figure and the detrimental effects it has on the rights and liberties of citizens. The power of the people through their representatives has been diminished indeed.
We should not settle for 10 minutes of phone testimony, nor accept that they discourage in-person testimony, nor tolerate a legislature that is turning over its authority to the governor. We should fight for our rights of assembly, freedom of expression, and the right to petition our government, all of which are increasingly being diminished by a government that should be for, by, and of the people.
We at FPM have been working to train families and individuals on how to engage in advocacy from home. Though current circumstances make fighting for our freedoms difficult, it has also opened up ways we can work to engage our elected representatives at the district level. We have an online training program and a way for you to engage directly with your own representatives. Click the button below to start your training!